Teaching

“David is amazing. So upbeat and enthusiastic when he teaches. It is perfect to be able to do voice and piano with one person. We would recommend him to anyone seeking either of these things and more!”

—Frances, mom of student

If you’re in a hurry…

This page contains a lot of information that you, frankly, might be too busy to read right now. (Believe me; I get that.)  If you can hang on for three bullets worth of material, here are the answers I find most potential students are looking for:

  • For most beginners (voice or piano), I recommend 30-minute weekly lessons, for which I charge $30 each, billed monthly.  More advanced students may register for weekly 60-minute lessons; those are $60 each.  For the sake of scheduling simplicity, I do not offer 45-minute lessons.
  • I encourage you to schedule a free Initial Consultation with me to discuss goals, policies, and scheduling.  You can do that most easily through this page of my website.

If you have a few minutes, though, please read on below to learn more about my teaching philosophy, including thoughts on practicing, lesson frequency and duration, and ad-hoc coaching, along with information on locations, fees, and payment policies.  (And if you’d like to hear what some of my recent students have to say about me, you can watch a few testimonial videos here.)

Pedagogy

In the simplest of senses, anyone who can push a button can play the piano—but making music at the piano is much more than knowing which of the 88 “buttons” on the instrument to push in which order. Similarly, anyone who can speak aloud and recognize pitch can learn to sing—but true vocal music is much more than words and notes.

The good news is that after more than three decades as a pianist and singer, I can offer my students sound practical wisdom they can use to make music more efficiently and safely. But behind every technical exercise is my singular goal as an artist: to communicate well and powerfully through music. I often encourage my students using a philosophy attributed to jazz great Charlie Parker*: “Master your instrument, master the music, and then forget all that and just play.”

Practicing

Of course, the “forget all that” part comes after the mastery of the instrument and the music—fluency in music, as in any other language, is impossible to achieve without frequent immersion. So students should plan to include a dedicated practice time at least five days out of each week. (I strongly recommend you add these practice times to your personal calendar, rather than trusting yourself to “fit it in sometime.”) Even 10 or 15 minutes of practice, five times in a week, is preferable to a single longer session. Just make sure it’s quality time: studies have shown that it’s better to put in a few minutes of careful, dedicated work on a single trouble spot than it is to hastily play through a piece and “chalk up” the time as practice.

Lesson duration

I recommend 30-minute weekly sessions for nearly all of my students.  A 30-minute session generally allows us to review the work you’ve done since I saw you last, address specific challenges, and set goals for the coming week.  More advanced students, especially those who begin to cover longer repertory, prepare for college auditions, etc., may find 60-minute weekly lessons preferable.

Lesson frequency

I’m often asked about biweekly (“every-other-week”) lessons.  As a way to save money and travel time, biweekly lessons can seem like a smart choice.  But reality being what it is, students who see me only a couple of times a month don’t progress nearly as fast (much less than half as fast, I find) as those who have that weekly “nudge” to keep them moving forward.  And that’s even assuming we never have to miss a lesson due to illness, weather, or travel.  Those are the downsides to non-weekly lessons from the student’s perspective.

From my end of things, I usually maintain a waiting list of students eager to begin weekly lessons, so when a student isn’t able to commit to a time slot on an ongoing basis (with the understanding that there may be an occasional cancellation, of course), it makes more sense for me to offer the regular time to a weekly student.

For these reasons, I do not offer regularly scheduled biweekly lessons.  Students who are unable to commit to weekly lessons are welcome, of course, to schedule ad-hoc sessions at their own convenience (up to 30 days in advance) using my online scheduler.

Ad-hoc “coaching”

I am happy to provide “coaching” for performers—i.e., short-term preparation for an audition, performance, or other event—in schedule gaps between regular students.  You can view available times and rates for coaching sessions, and schedule a session (up to 30 days in advance) on this page.

Coaching sessions, however, are much less focused on comprehensive improvement as a musician, and much more on “tricks and tools” that the musician can use to overcome the challenges inherent in the particular repertory in question.  A student who moves from project to project may feel accomplished, and certainly begins to develop an impressively padded résumé, but they often emerge at the end of a season of performances feeling exhausted and burnt-out—and worse, they aren’t significantly better musicians for the experience.

In other words, while coaching is certainly better than nothing, I recommend that serious students make long-term growth a priority, and be frugal in selecting which performances are worth taking time and energy away from professionally guided study and practice.

A few words about gender and identity

While technique and theory are obviously essential parts of the craft, making music happens only when the artist makes vulnerable, authentic connections to the material and to the audience.  To that end, I sometimes select (and am happy for students to request) repertory that crosses gender lines (e.g., a female-presenting student singing music written for a male character), where textual, thematic, and/or musical considerations suggest a student would make important connections with that repertory.

I also encourage students to share with me their preferred name and gender pronouns, regardless of whether legal procedures to change their name and pronouns have arisen.  The name and pronouns I use with students during private sessions may be different, if desired, from those used in communication with parents and others.  My official records (for scheduling, billing, and communications) can be updated at any time of the student’s choosing.

In short, your music should be yours, and it is my job to help you make your music.

The brass tacks, in a nutshell

There is a ridiculously detailed description of my studio policies elsewhere on this site, but as a primer for the prospective student, here’s the gist:

I teach year-round at my home studio in Boiling Springs and at The Perfect 5th Musical Arts Center in Mechanicsburg. For half-hour sessions, the fee is $30 per session; hour-long lessons are $60 each. I’ll send an invoice/schedule by email on the 3rd Monday of each month, including dates, times, locations, and fees for the following month’s lessons, along with any books or materials that may have been purchased since the last invoice. Payment is due on the first of the month, and may be accomplished by clicking the “Pay Now” link in the invoice itself, or by any of several other means.

For students with no outstanding invoices, canceling a session by e-mail at least 24 hours prior to the scheduled lesson time credits that session’s fee toward the following month’s lessons.

Starting the conversation

If my pedagogy appeals to you (and you’re prepared to at least wish you had time to practice five days a week), please submit a contact form; I’ll be back in touch with you (usually within 24 hours) to discuss how we might work together.


*As with many great quotes, this one appears with slight variations in many different sources. The least “pithy” version, found here, is probably the most accurate, but this version is the one that first caught my heart.